O brave new world, that has such gadgets in it! As if we have not yet been thrilled enough by the manifold delights of your ongoing digital revolution, you have now given us a device – as light and convenient as, well, a book – that enables us to carry the contents of a small local library around with us at all times.
The Kindle, the eReader, the iRiver, the Elonex, the BeBook, the CyBook... all wondrous little tablets that – with the odd difference in size and specification – allow you to download and read books without ever having to go into a shop.
The advantages are various and obvious. You get to choose the size of the type. You get handy little add-ons that allow you to, say, touch the screen on a word you don't understand and see its definition pop up instantly. There are even devices that turn text into speech.
And yet, and yet... In the same way that crunching albums into MP3 files seemed to diminish their impact, so it is with turning the years of love and labour generally involved in writing a book into something that can be compressed into a file to be download in seconds.
Is "Being Modern" becoming a Luddite? Not exactly. Merely stating the fact that while e-reader devices have now sold in the millions (and e-books recently outsold paperbacks on Amazon for the first time), there is still something about the type of person who uses one publicly that says, "Look at me! I'm reading an electronic book!" In this, the situation is akin to the early days of the mobile phone – when self-conscious early adopters delighted in their superiority while the rest of us bided our time.
Thousands of books on the same device? Yes. But you can only read them one at a time. And you can't lend them to a friend afterwards. Or read them anywhere they may get damp. And you've paid £100-plus for a thing that denies you the thrill of browsing in bookshops, gazing at the cover or building a collection to decorate a room.
No doubt, over time, books will become curios from a bygone age. All the more reason, surely, to love and cherish them now.Reuse content